When they take the field Sunday in San Diego, the Tucson Sugar Skulls will be the first professional football team from Tucson, Arizona to take a snap.
The Sugar Skulls arrive with a first-year head coach Marcus Coleman who is coming off a United Bowl championship as defensive coordinator for the Iowa Barnstormers.
The team 25-man roster is a mix of indoor football veterans and rookies but includes two quarterbacks with IFL experience.
Jake Medlock and Matt Behrendt joined the team late in training camp, and both have impressive résumés. Medlock led the IFL in passing yards (2,616), completions (265) and touchdowns (47) in 2018 playing for the Cedar Rapids Titans, now known as the River Kings. Behrendt spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Green Bay Blizzard. Neither has been named the starter.
The Sugar Skulls have another veteran in the backfield in running back Shad Thornton, 6,1", 230 pounds, who rushed for seven touchdowns in six games with the Arizona Rattlers last season.
Defensively, the Sugar Skulls have two of the best players in the IFL with All-IFL defensive lineman Keith Jones Jr. and All-IFL linebacker Zach Allen, both of whom were with the Barnstormers in 2018. Jones was third in the league with 5½ sacks. Allen led the Barnstormers with 84 total tackles.
"We will be fast and we will be physical," Coleman said as the Sugar Skulls prepared for their first game. "I'm happy with the talent we're putting on the field. We're not approaching this season as a new franchise building for the future. We're trying to win a championship right now."
The San Diego Strike Force fell in their first-ever game last weekend 67-49 vs the Quad City Steamwheelers. Coached by former San Diego Charger Burt Grossman, the Strike Force will host their first-ever home game this weekend against the Sugar Skulls. On offense, WR Marques Rodgers was named IFL Offensive Player of the Week Honorable Mention after catching seven passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. QB Derrick Bernard threw for 245 yards and six touchdowns, but threw three costly interceptions.DB Timothy Moten led the Strike Force on defense with seven total tackles and one tackle for loss.